Lock, stock and two smoking fires

And now, something for buyers who want the lot: furniture, fittings and light bulbs.
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The Independent Online

Unfortunate is the buyer who pitches up at their new pad to find the Scrooge-like vendor has removed every light bulb in the place. Even before completion arguments, fixtures and fittings can cause the most lucrative deal to falter. But there are some homes where buyers are guaranteed to find light bulbs - and furniture.

Unfortunate is the buyer who pitches up at their new pad to find the Scrooge-like vendor has removed every light bulb in the place. Even before completion arguments, fixtures and fittings can cause the most lucrative deal to falter. But there are some homes where buyers are guaranteed to find light bulbs - and furniture.

Buy 31 Green Street, Mayfair and get light bulbs and carefully chosen furniture and paintings. With a price tag of £7m, plus a million more for contents, we're not talking Ikea flat-pack, and interior designer Nigel Pearce's brief was to show 31 Green Street as a great London home after it was renovated from flats. With the help of Leeds firm Windsor House Antiques, the six-storey property has been furnished with antiques, paintings and objects of value to help potential buyers visualise the finished product.

Mr Pearce admits to a morbid fascination for Changing Rooms, but there's not a staple gun or stencil in sight - although he did restrain an assistant from putting bowls of walnuts everywhere.

Roger Coombs, a communications adviser with agents Beauchamp Estates and Wetherall, is marketing the property. His perfect English accent takes a transatlantic dive as he speculates over potential buyers. "It's gonna be bought by someone who just lurves our little old country houses," he drawls. But they may not have the interior designer or, he whispers, the taste to do this.

Why should they bother? It's all been done for them, down to the pool-side mural, with more lunar landscape than Hilda Ogden. This is the sort of house where everything might be done for you and there are ample staff quarters and a butler's sitting room, although this part of the house remains unfurnished.

At the other end of the spectrum, Townends Regents in Hounslow is selling a two-bedroom, mid-terrace house built two years ago, complete with furniture, TV, stereo and satellite system included in the sale price of £149,950. But selling a house with its contents is not necessarily advantageous. Building societies make retentions if furniture costs are included within the asking price, although there are ways round this. Only a few people go in expecting to buy the chattels as well as the house. Richard Rawson, sales and marketing director for developers Countryside Residential, says the expectations of new housebuyers have increased. The great British public has fallen in love with the world of interiors, beautifying their homes and gardens, and that's why there's always such demand for show homes.

But is buying a house with contents financially worthwhile? Buyers certainly pay for it, says Mr Rawson, but they tend to fall in love with the design of a ready-packaged lifestyle.

One buyer who wanted the whole package was Joseph Alvarez, a recruitment consultant, who purchased a Copthorn show-home in Church Langley, Harlow with partner Hien Bui. "I bought everything other than the knives and forks," says Mr Alvarez who spent six weekends scouring numerous developments before finding his two-bedroom, two-bathroom house through Copthorn's internet site. Mr Alvarez rejected three other homes that he felt made too much of a statement. He was instantly smitten when he saw his house. "We looked through the window, looked at each other and said, 'wow!''' Mr Alvarez took a friend's advice and bought a show-home because of its extras. He believes he got a good deal on contents but thinks he paid through the nose for the house. "You can't put a price on happiness but with a cash deal I did well."

Along with carpets, curtains and furniture the couple also bought lamps and pictures. He describes the decor as very natural, a mixture of old and new: "Every day we look around and think what a beautiful home. Even the garden is landscaped and has pebbles, not grass. It's like one you'd see on TV, well, maybe not quite as flash."

Does he wish he had chosen more things for his own home? "No, I don't like shopping, it would have been too much and would have taken too long.

"Everything here matches so beautifully. We'd have wanted something similar and wouldn't have known where to get everything from."

Critics argue that buying a show home indicates a lack of imagination and Mr Alvarez accepts that he could not have improved on the decor: "Perhaps we're not that inventive. An empty house looks lovely but it's hard to picture what it will look like with things in. With this we knew exactly."

The couple are now searching for another property: "I'll only ever buy show homes, interior designers are so clever and make the best of everything."

Interior designer Jacqueline Bowen has cleverly made the best of the Oast House, part of a Laing Homes development in Beckenham, Kent which she furnished as her finale before retiring. Sales and marketing director Alan Sellers says: "Her brief was to reflect a quintessential English look. The Oast House is the Garden of England's hallmark so we didn't want to fill it with foreign furniture."

Much of the furniture in the five- bedroom property has been specially made by firms in Suffolk and Oxford, and fabrics are by Nina Campbell and Osborne and Little. Laing Homes are marketing the property later this month and expect offers in excess of £1.3m. Interested parties will be pleased to hear that this sum includes all contents.

Beauchamp Estates: 020 7499 7722. Wetherall: 0207493 6935. Laing Homes South Thames: 01293 544844. Copthorn homes: www.copthornhomes.co.uk Countryside Residential: www.countryside-properties.co.uk

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